Backstory Is Essential to Story—Except When It’s Not

by Merry Anderson on Jan 14, 2023 Writing and Speaking 33 Views

Backstory Is Essential to Story—Except When It’s Not


Characters are not just static figures on the page - they come to life with a carefully crafted backstory. This is essential to forming characters in any story, giving them depth and dimension that draws readers in. Without it, your characters will feel thin or arbitrary, and their actions will remain unexplained. You can hire "Ghostwriting services" for your book.

However, too much backstory can be a double-edged sword, too. Too many details can weigh down your storyline and leave readers uninterested. Finding a balance between the two is important - not too much, but certainly not too little.

A backstory is a powerful tool for writing compelling stories and must be used carefully. With the right blend of detail and nuance, you can make your characters come alive in the reader's imagination, drawing them into the world of your story.

Finding that perfect balance may take some experimentation, but it can be done. With a properly crafted backstory, you can create captivating characters that keep readers engaged from start to finish.

When backstory works

Skillful writing techniques are like Supreme Justice Potter Stewart's 1964 opinion of pornography—you can't quite define it, but you recognize it when you encounter it. The backstory is the same: often invisible, yet so integral to the story that its threads weave together to create something greater than just a collection of words.

For example, a character saying, "You're late again," hints at past occurrences and builds upon their relationship. The backstory is established even further with a few different words, such as an exasperated sigh or disappointed head shake.

The backstory can also be revealed in longer beats—a snippet of dialogue that evokes past conversations between characters, a vivid image, or a brief exposition that provides much-needed context. On occasion, larger instances of backstory can also be effective as long as it serves the story—filling in details that explain why a character behaves in a certain way and giving readers better insight into their motivations.

Ultimately, when used skillfully, backstory enhances the story and allows readers to immerse themselves further into the narrative. It serves as a reminder that characters have pasts, which gives them greater depth and realism.

By taking the time to understand how backstory works, writers can successfully blend it into their stories — making it an integral part of any great novel.

When backstory fails

Striking a balance between the backstory and the forward plot is tricky. It's easy to stumble into the numerous backstory traps that lurk in wait. However, with diligence and finesse, it's possible to utilize this powerful narrative tool without bogging down your story.

Backstory can be a powerful tool for writers, adding depth and complexity to characters and stories. But it can also be a minefield of potential missteps that can derail your narrative before it even starts. Here are some of the most common traps to watch out for and how to navigate them:

The "frontloaded backstory" trap occurs when authors need to "catch readers up" on a character's past before diving into the main story. The result is often a heavy-handed dose of exposition that bogs down the story before it has a chance to take off.

The "flashback backstory dump" trap happens when a story is overloaded with a single, lengthy flashback that exists mainly to fill in the blanks on a character's past. This can distract readers from the main story, killing momentum and disorienting them.

The "backstory taking over the story" trap occurs when a story is so focused on exploring a character's past that it loses sight of the main plot. Characters may feel like cardboard cutouts, and readers may be left with whiplash.

The "cryptic or coy backstory tease" trap happens when authors make repeated oblique references to past events without enough context to make readers care.

The "unnecessary backstory" trap happens when the backstory is included just for the sake of "establishing" a character or plot point rather than adding to the story.

The "clunky intros and outros" trap happens when lead-ins and lead-outs to flashbacks are clunky, pulling readers away from the story.

The "not enough/poorly developed backstory" trap happens when characters are not given enough backstory, making them feel like cardboard cutouts. A backstory that is poorly developed can also create stereotypes or clichés.

To avoid these traps, authors should consider the purpose of their backstory, and

whether it is essential to the story. By weaving in backstory in a natural and

engaging way, writers can add depth and complexity to their characters and


Balancing backstory

When it comes to incorporating backstory into your story, it's important to strike the right balance. Here are a few tips to ensure that your backstory feels organic and seamless:

The "Watergate question": Think about what readers need to know and when they need to know it. Use backstory only as needed to understand or feel invested in your characters and story. Gradually build depth and texture to create a more nuanced and realistic picture.

Relevance: Make sure your backstory is directly related to the present story. Show how it illuminates something essential in the action or character arc. Use context, memory, and flashback to create organic connections between past and present.

Think about how the backstory influences the character in the current story. It can drive them to take a certain action, make a specific decision, manifest a certain behavior, or gain some new understanding of a situation.

With these tips in mind, you can effectively weave backstory into your story naturally and engagingly. Remember to use backstory sparingly and focus on making it relevant and tying it in with the present story.

Specificity: Avoid vague and generic backstories that can make your story and characters feel uninteresting. The more concrete, granular, and specific your backstory is, the more believable and dimensional it will feel. Instead of saying, "A difficult childhood," try to describe specific, vivid, and visceral memories.

Weave backstory fluidly and smoothly: Use backstory in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself but illuminates something in the present moment. Use backstory as a seasoning to enhance the main story rather than being the main focus. Make sure to focus on the main story's forward momentum.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can effectively incorporate backstory in a natural, believable, and engaging way. Remember to be specific and detailed and use it to enhance the main story. Click here for further details on "Book publishing Agent". 

Article source:


No comments have been left here yet. Be the first who will do it.

captchaPlease input letters you see on the image.
Click on image to redraw.



Overall Rating:

Most Recent Articles

Latest Comments

Delta is always marked best in its services. Whether its facilities at the airport, include boarding, check-in, or in-flight facilities such as entertainment, food, and beverage. Delta won’t let...
Looking for a reliable travel agency in Haridwar for your Char Dham Yatra? Look no further than Yatra Sevak 247, offering top-notch  taxi for char dham yatra, and all-inclusive char dham yatra...
Can I say it is such a relief to discover somebody who truly knows what theyre preaching online? You actually have learned to bring a problem to light and make it crucial. More people should...
Your article is a well-written coreball   and well-researched contribution to the field.
on Mar 27, 2023 about Familiarize The Process Of SEO
Your article is a well-written coreball  and well-researched contribution to the field.
on Mar 27, 2023 about Best aircon service

Translate To: